Zucchini may have a mild flavor, but it adds so much moisture to baked goods—and a fun color, too. Zucchini muffins are soft and moist, deliciously spiced, and incredibly easy to make. But I still think there’s a little room for improvement.
To take it up a notch, these zucchini muffins feature a sweet and tangy cream cheese filling. Bite into the center of one of these muffins and you’ll reveal a pocket of creamy cheesecake that will make you wonder if you’ll ever go back to baking traditional zucchini muffins again. They’re not just for breakfast or brunch—they’re dessert worthy.
Tips for the Best Cream Cheese Filled Muffins
Creamy and tangy cream cheese makes almost any baked good that much more irresistible. Here are a few tips for making and layering flawless cream cheese-filled muffins.
- Use cream cheese that comes in a brick rather than the kind in a plastic tub. The latter has a different formula that makes it easier to spread and isn’t ideal for baking.
- To soften the cream cheese quickly, unwrap it and microwave it on a microwave-safe plate in 10-second intervals until soft.
- Spread the batter with a spoon or a butter knife to completely encase the cream cheese filling. Or, spread the cream cheese filling out to the edges of the cups before adding the final muffin batter layer for more of a swirled and layered muffin.
Skip the Cream Cheese Layer
If you’re looking for classic zucchini muffins, simply leave out the cream cheese filling. Keep in mind that without the filling the recipe will yield 9 to 10 muffins instead of 12. If you want to make more, you can double the recipe for 18 muffins. Or bake up Elise’s stellar zucchini muffin recipe with walnuts and dried cranberries.
Baking with Zucchini
Zucchini has a mild, sweet flavor and adds a lot of moisture to baked goods. Many recipes even call for squeezing water out of the grated zucchini. For these muffins, I skipped this step and didn’t squeeze any of the water out. This muffin batter is slightly thicker than standard muffins and can handle the extra moisture.
I used regular grocery store zucchini. If you’re lucky enough to have zucchini fresh from the garden, use the smaller ones for this recipe, since big zucchini can be watery. To grate the zucchini, use the coarse holes on a box grater or use the grater attachment of a food processor.
If it’s not zucchini season, there are tons of easy swaps you can try in place of the grated zucchini. Use grated apple, carrots or parsnips, mashed banana, sweet potato purée, or a combination. Just be sure to use the same amount of your replacement as the zucchini called for in the recipe: 1 cup.
How to Store and Freeze
Store leftover muffins in an airtight container on the counter for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Are you on a baking marathon to use up that excess zucchini from the garden before it’s too late? These freeze well, so you can enjoy them later when you’re missing summer produce.
To freeze, arrange the baked and cooled muffins in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until frozen solid. Then transfer the muffins into a freezer bag. Frozen muffins will keep for up to three months. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
The Versatile Zucchini
- Cheesy Zucchini Bites
- Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
- Zucchini Ricotta Frittata
- Giant Sausage Stuffed Zucchini
- Zucchini Breakfast Casserole
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a standard muffin pan with muffin liners.
Make the cream cheese filling:
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy, similar in thickness to peanut butter.
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, ginger, and nutmeg.
Combine the wet ingredients:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until combined. Add the egg and whisk until it is fully incorporated. Stir in the grated zucchini until it is evenly distributed.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients:
Add the flour mixture to the zucchini mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula just until combined and no streaks of dry flour remain. The batter may seem slightly thicker than most muffin batters, but the zucchini will add a lot of moisture in the oven.
Divide the batter:
Use a cookie scoop or a couple of spoons to scoop a rounded tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup. Scoop a tablespoon of the cream cheese filling onto the batter. Divide the remaining muffin batter evenly between each muffin cup. You can use a spoon or a butter knife to ensure the batter completely encases the cream cheese filling or leave it be for more of a swirled layer.
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of turbinado sugar on the top of each muffin, if using.
Bake the muffins for 5 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for about 15 minutes longer. When they’re fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be matte and the edges will have started to brown.
Cool the muffins and serve:
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Store cooled leftover muffins in an airtight container on the counter for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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